Original Texas Chili Con Carne
from “A Bowl of Red” by Frank X. Tolbert

The late Frank X. Tolbert wrote this story of Chili back in 1953, and he gives lots of varied recipes.  My favorite is the “Original Texas Chili”.  He says:

“The original Texas-style chili didn’t contain any vegetables except chili peppers, the burning capsicums, a few other spices derived from the plant kingdom – no tomatoes or chopped onions.”  No beans, either, though it’s OK to add cooked beans to the bowl after all is done.  “The original was simply bite-sized or coarsely ground beef or other mature meats (never, never veal) cooked slowly and for a long time in boon companionship with the pulp of chili peppers, crushed powder from the curly leaves of oregano, ground cuminseeds, and chopped garlic cloves.”

Dried peppers prepared as in the recipe is the original way, but chili powder is a possible substitute though you will lose flavor that way.  Be very careful what peppers you use.  Anchos as specified give plenty of flavor and modest heat.  If you happen to get a different dried pepper LOOK OUT!  Some will blow the top of your head off at this level.  The added cayenne seems to me to be a joke, and I usually use a lot less.  If you are brave, you can give it a try.  Depends on how hot your dried peppers turn out to be.

Best if you can make chili the day before and rest it overnight in the refrigerator.

I made some today to this recipe and yep, it was GOOD!

Weight Watchers: 12 points per ½ lb serving; 7 points when it’s 50-50 beans.

Ingredients (6-8 servings?)

12 dried sun dried ancho or alternatively “Jap” peppers, preferably dark red

       This will give an “elevated” flavor, use half that for mild chili

   Water to cover them

3 lbs lean beef.  Stew meat is good if it’s fat free.  Prime meat will turn to mush.

1/8 lb rendered beef kidney suet (can be omitted for less fat, but you lose flavor)


1 tbsp oregano, preferably Mexican oregano

1 tbsp crushed cuminseeds

1 tbsp salt (to taste)

1 tbsp Tabasco sauce

1 tbsp cayenne pepper, or much less if you’re not crazy

2 cloves garlic or more to your taste, minced

3 tbsp Gebhardt’s chili powder, if you want it redder and more flavorful – not in the original


2 tbsp instant masa


1 tbsp  paprika, to add red color if the peppers are not red enough


Preparation (2 ½ - 3 hours):

Wash the peppers and remove the stems and seeds.  (Don’t touch your eyes during this operation and wash hands thoroughly afterward, or better, wear rubber gloves)

Boil the pods in a little water for 30 minutes, or until you can remove the skin.  Save the peppery water for use later. 

Grind the pulp with a little peppery water in the blender.  Add the paprika if the mash is not red enough to suit you.   For a less-flavorful alternative, you can just use 1 tbsp Gebhardt’s chili powder to replace each pepper pod.

Use a heavy pot, preferably cast iron and well-seasoned.

Heat the rendered suet or a little vegetable oil in the pot. 

Brown the diced or ground beef over medium high heat until well browned, in several loads.  Each load should have space between the pieces of meat so that they brown all over and don’t start stewing.  A dark brown crust will give you the best beefy flavor, so brown more than you think.  High heat causes the outside to brown while the inside stays uncooked.

Return all the beef to the pot, add the mashed pepper pods, and as much peppery water (or tap water if you run out) as you’ll need to keep the chili from burning. You can watch it and add more water as it cooks to keep the consistency right.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and add oregano, cumin, salt, Tabasco sauce, and garlic.  Test the heat level and if you need it add some cayenne and (optional) chili powder.

Bring to a boil again and simmer for 45 minutes, keeping the lid on as much as possible.  Stir when necessary but too much stirring will tear up the meat, especially if the meat is too tender.  Add more peppered water (or water) if the mixture gets close to burning.  You need to keep the consistency as you like it, since it’s possible to have this come out like chunks of spice-encrusted beef rather than chili!

Remove from heat

Skim off the grease to reduce your fat intake, if you like.

Mix in the Masa Harina to thicken and impart a nice tamale-like taste.  If you can’t find that regular corn flour or corn meal makes a substitute.

Return to heat and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the meat is done.

Taste and adjust salt and heat level. If you really need more kick you can add whole chilis without seeds and skins.  You might find that adding water to make it more soupy can stretch the recipe out and maybe even make it taste better.

Rest it in the refrigerator overnight if you can, to improve the flavor and bring more fat to the surface to skim.  It’s amazing how the flavor improves with a little rest.